Obituary: Hans Peter Meier / Community leader never forgot Swiss roots

Feb. 25, 1926 - April 29, 2014


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Hans Meier enjoyed telling people he came to America as a war bride.

Mr. Meier was a Swiss national when he married Minnesotan Inez Johnson in 1949.

"My mom and dad met and married in Wiesbaden, where they were both working for the [United States] Air Force," said his daughter, LuAnn George. "He'd tell the story about how, when they came here, he was hanging out with all of the other wives while my mother, this only woman, was filling out the paperwork with the rest of the men."

Although he eventually became a U.S. citizen, served as a leader in area Cub Scouts and would visit all 50 states while making storied family camping trips with his wife and their six children, Mr. Meier never forgot his Swiss roots. He yodeled and sang with the Swiss Maennerchor Helvetzia and the German Maennerchor Teutonia groups. Even in his last days at Canterbury Place Hospice in Lawrence, where he was being treated for congestive heart failure, he cradled a tune.

"Every so often we would hear him. My brother leaned down and asked 'Is he moaning?' Then he said, 'I don't know, [I think] he was humming his yodeling songs.' So we all sang the song," Mrs. George said.

Mr. Meier died Tuesday at 88.

Another daughter, Michele McFarland, said she only recently learned that her father had hoped to form a family band. Certainly, they were well trained musically; all of the Meier kids grew up singing at their home in McCandless and most played musical instruments. All spoke German to some degree.

There were pianists, clarinet players, trumpet players, percussionists -- even Mrs. Meier, who died in 2009, played the saxophone.

Born in Schwarzenburg to Martha and Hermann Alexander Meier, Mr. Meier and his brother, Konrad, grew up in Bern. Mr. Meier worked as a druggist there until becoming a civilian employee to the U.S. military government in 1946. The young family -- a son, James, was born there -- moved to Pittsburgh in 1952 and Mr. Meier eventually became a postman, working in the Observatory Hill, Bellevue and McKnight branches.

Gardening and travel were among his passions. His daughters spoke with amusement of a particularly memorable summer trip taken when they were kids. Two adults, five children, a bass fiddle and camping equipment were squeezed into a small car as they set off on a three-week road trip to discover the American West.

She said they liked to joke that they were the "Water Family," because the first initials of their names went "From 'H' to 'O'."

There were Hans, Inez, James, Kenneth, LuAnn, Michele, Nancy and Owen.

"There was some discussion of naming [the youngest] 'Oscar,' but can you imagine his name being Oscar Meier?" Mrs. McFarland added, laughing.

The three Meier sons became Eagle Scouts, and their father's involvement with Cub Scouts spanned his lifetime in the U.S. He was cubmaster of Cub Scout Pack 171 (formerly 335) for 40 years.

Peg Deily had two sons in the group when she was tasked with running the annual day camp. She received a surprising offer from Mr. Meier that first summer.

"He volunteered [to help run it], which meant he had to take a week off from work," she said.

Mr. Meier had a great way with the kids, she said, and getting 200 antsy boys to participate quietly for a ceremony was nothing short of a miracle: "I stood in absolute awe, because here he came in with a whole group in line. He was fantastic with children."

Among his many scouting honors was the Silver Beaver Award (the top volunteer award) in 1971, the district's Award of Merit, as well as the John Douglas award for lifetime achievement, which he received in 2003.

Mr. Meier is survived by sons James Meier of Pleasant Hills and Solon, Ohio, Kenneth Meier of Anderson, S.C., and Owen Meier of Moon; daughters LuAnn George of McCandless, Michele McFarland of Jefferson Hills and Nancy Carson of Mason, Ohio; as well as 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. today and Friday at H.P. Brandt Funeral Home, 1032 Perry Highway, Ross.

Mrs. George said some of her father's friends from the Swiss yodeling and German singing community are expected to stop by.

"He was never a rich man," she said, "but we had rich experiences."


Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1478 or on Twitter @MariaSciulloPG.

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